Posted by: wordrunner | February 1, 2022

February 2022

Dear Literary Folk,

Happy Lunar New Year, February 1, 2022! We’re entering the year of the tiger. In Chinese culture, the tiger is the symbol of bravery, wisdom and strength, much like the lion in Western tradition. Celebrations of the Lunar New Year often start the weekend before and continue for weeks after. The Lantern Festival symbolizes the end of the New Year season and is marked by the flying of paper lanterns and eating of turnip cakes and tangyuan, a Chinese dessert of sweet rice-ball dumplings. This year, it lands on Feb. 15.

Chinese New Year lanternsLantern Festival
by Cigeng Zhang

Red lanterns
Shine in the sky
The moon smiles
So many tiny new stars
Drift out of the night
Really busy!
Amber eyes
Warm and sweet
Make a wish, please
At the special night
Make a wish, please
What’s the best wish?
Let the real spring
Come, come, quickly
Come, the real spring
Come, the vernal light

Last year’s February post focused on the transition from the Trump presidency to the Biden inauguration, featuring the poetry of Amanda Gorman with her stellar recital of “The Hill We Climb.” One year later, we’re still climbing that hill, still hunkered down to protect ourselves and our communities from the overload of Covid surges, and still vigilant about protecting voting rights and the fundamentals of our democratic elections.
What can we as a writing/literary community do to engage these times we’re living? Stay vigilant. Stay involved. Support one another as writers and artists. Write from the heart and witness your truth.

We can begin by looking to our young writers for their voices and vision.

Poetry Out Loud Competition Celebrates Youth Voices
On Sunday, January 30, seven gifted high school students competed in an online version of the Poetry Out Loud competition. The Sonoma County winner is Chelle Servais, a student at Santa Rosa High. The runner-up is Ella Wen from Maria Carillo, and third place is Cris Nunez from Roseland University Prep.

Congratulations to all the participants, and thanks to the teachers and coaches who worked to help the students prepare and video-record their recitations. The evening’s online event was coordinated by Sonoma County poet Jodi Hotel, who was able to help all the participants and judges pivot from the planned in-person event to an online format. No easy task, that!

Chelle Servais will go on to the California state level of competition. We wish them all the best!

Interested in Working With Young Writers?
Poet wanted to facilitate a teen poetry group, once a week for about an hour and a half. Looking for someone who loves teenagers to facilitate a poetry circle (not a study group), someone who can create a safe space for teens who want to explore creativity, self-expression, and find a voice through poetry. Many will be musicians; all are artistic in one way or another. Most, if not all, will be homeschoolers and/or unschoolers. It will likely be a Zoom/in-person (in nature?) hybrid. Pay will be fair. For more information contact Soneile Hymn at If possible, send a short summary of your vision for the group you would like to facilitate and why you are interested. 

Teen Poets Write on the Themes of Resistance and Resilience

America, We Call Your Name: Youth Poetry ReadingOn Sunday, February 20, at 4 PM PST, Sixteen Rivers Presents hosts a unique poetry reading and chance to hear new poems of resistance and resilience by the six winners of the Sixteen Rivers Youth Poetry Contest.

Young poets from all across the country were invited to participate. They each selected a poem from the anthology America, We Call Your Name, then composed an original poem in response. Finally, the poets videotaped themselves reciting their poems and submitted them to Sixteen Rivers Press.

Six grand-prize winners of this national contest for teen poets will read their poems, plus the poems from our anthology, America, We Call Your Name, that inspired their work.

To attend, please register in advance with this link:
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing a link to join the reading.

Nominations for Sonoma County Poet Laureate Open February 10, 2022
Nominations will be opening soon for Sonoma County’s 12th Poet Laureate. The Poet Laureate is a Sonoma County resident who has demonstrated a commitment to the literary arts in the County. The Poet Laureate often participates in official ceremonies and readings and receives a $2,000 stipend payable in yearly $1,000 increments.

The Sonoma County Poet Laureate is chosen by a distinguished panel with a profound knowledge of, and an active dedication to, the life of poetry in Sonoma County. Members of the Selection Panel represent the five Sonoma County Supervisory Districts, Sonoma State University, Santa Rosa Junior College, and Sonoma County Library. Each member of this panel has a proven passion for poetry and a history of enriching the life of poetry in our community.

Nominations for Poet Laureate require that the poet be a resident of Sonoma County whose poetry manifests a high degree of excellence and who has produced a critically acclaimed body of work. The nominee must also have demonstrated an active commitment to the literary arts in Sonoma County, must propose and perform a project of their own creation, and must agree to participate in official ceremonies and poetry events.

Consistent with tradition, the Sonoma County Poet Laureate will not have a formal job description but will be encouraged to develop an agenda promoting poetry and the literary arts in Sonoma County.

The public is invited to nominate qualified poets. Information about requirements and application instructions can be found on the Sebastopol Center for the Arts website at

Remembering Kate Willens
Kate WillensEarlier this week, The Press Democrat ran an obituary I didn’t expect to read. It was for a friend (and sometime student) Kate Willens. Kate was a spiritual seeker whose heart soared through her music. She had an extraordinary voice, and when she accompanied herself on guitar or harp, it was a gift. To say we didn’t agree politically is putting it mildly, especially since the 2016 election and recent COVID controversies. But I appreciated her many gifts.

In 2011, Kate was one of seven poet-travelers who went with me on a journey through West Ireland. One memory of that trip stands out for me today.

Kate Willens with harpOn our first outing on a windy, rainy morning, we visited Poulnabrone Dolmen in County Clare. Kate insisted on bringing her traveling harp wherever we went, and she would improvise songs for the landscape as she was inspired. At one point, she held the harp up in front of the dolmen’s gate (it is an ancient burial portal), and let the wind blowing through the dolmen play the harp strings, like an Aeolian harp, conjuring a haunting music. Stranger still, when Kate held the harp up for the wind to play, but away from the dolmen’s gate, the music we heard was different. These photos capture that moment.

News from the Redwood Writers Club
Author Launch: On Saturday, February 19, 1:00-4:00 p.m. Celebrate the success of 16 Bay Area authors at the annual Redwood Writers Author Launch event. Moderated by Jeane Slone, authors will share excerpts from their recently published books at this free online event. To learn more about our featured authors and their books, plus register and receive a Zoom link, visit

Call for Members’ Submissions: Redwood Writers Poetry Anthology: Are you a member of Redwood Writers? Have you submitted your poem to the 2022 poetry anthology yet? Redwood Writers are invited to submit up to 5 poem of any topic. Deadline is Feb. 28. See the guidelines and how to submit at

Plagios/Plagiarisms, Volume Two Special Pre-Pubication Offer
Plagios PlagarismsPlagios/Plagiarisms, Volume Two is now available from Sixteen Rivers Press. You can order on our website, using this link:

Many of you have been following the translation project I’ve been working on for nearly a decade now. Along with John Johnson and Nancy J. Morales, we’ve been translating the complete published poems of Mexican poet Ulalume González de León. The first volume came out in 2020, just in time for the Covid lock-down, which prevented the kind of book launch/celebrations we’re used to. Now the second volume is about to be released, and still it seems we’ll have to wait until summer to properly launch. We do have an outdoor reading planned at the beautiful Nicholson Ranch Winery in Sonoma, and we’ll keep you all posted about when that will be.

But in the meantime, we’re setting up online readings, and as we get closer to April 2, our official publication date, I’ll make sure these virtual events make it onto our Literary Update Calendar Page.

Online Creative Writing Workshop with Eliot Schain
Elliot SchainOn Saturday, February 26, 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. Dominican University presents “Writing to Restore the Self.” This free workshop, presented by psychotherapist, teacher, and poet Eliot Schain, will feature writing and discussion about imagery that can help process both positive and negative experience and unite disparate parts of the self.

Schain’s own books include American Romance and Westering Angels, both available from Zeitgeist Press and a newer collection, The Distant Sound, published by Sixteen Rivers Press in 2020. He has served as program director for the Poetry Society of America, taught high school, and now works as a psychotherapist in Berkeley, California.

Register here. Details on Workshops page. You can discover more Dominican University online workshops at this link:

Poetic License Sonoma — “Love and Loss” with special guest poet, Maya Khosla
Maya KhosloPoetic License Sonoma, a group of 8 poets read each month at Sebastopol Center for the Arts Fourth Tuesday Zoom Poetry Series. Though often a solitary pursuit, the writing of poetry, like all artistic forms of communication, is nurtured through the collaboration and support of others. They encourage and celebrate this form of artistry in our region, and beyond, through poetry readings, like this one; the publication of their work; and a steady stream of new writing.

This month PLS explores the theme of “Love and Loss” in Poetry and are joined by special guest poet Maya Khosla. Kusum Irene Jain will be acting MC; Guest Student poet from SRJC will be Dee Jaehrling.

Poem for February
February 14, Valentine’s Day, is traditionally the celebration of romantic love, though it can be extended to include friendships, family relationships, animals we love, or nature itself. Since the theme of Poetic License Sonoma this month is “Love and Loss,” here is a poem that speaks to that theme, by Linda Gregg. Gregg found inspiration for her poems in nature, in urban settings, and in broken relationships.

Surviving Love
by Linda Gregg (1942–2019)

I work hard at managing, grateful
and spare. I try to forgive all trespasses
and give thanks for the desert. Rejoice
in being alive here in my simple world.
Each evening I walk for an hour, paying
attention to real things. The plover
sweeping at my face to get me away from
its ground nest. An ant carrying the wing
of a butterfly like a flag in the wind.
A grasshopper eating a dead grasshopper.
The antelope close up, just staring at me.
Back in the house, I lie down in the heat
for a nap, realizing forgiveness is hard
for the wounded. Near the border,
between this country and the next one.

Linda Gregg, “Surviving Love” from In the Middle Distance. Copyright © 2006 by Linda Gregg.

Terry Ehret
Sonoma County Literary Update Co-editor


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